*I recently sat down with Tabitha Hiner Ulmer to discuss being a young generational agriculturalist. This is the second installment of a four-part series on the subject of Highland County Generational Farmers.*
Tabitha Hiner Ulmer is the fourth generation on the Hiner family farm located in McDowell. She resides there with her husband, Keith, and baby Ulmer – the fifth generation – is on the way! I spoke with Tabitha about what she learned while growing up on a generational farm – life lessons, work ethic, and other key takeaways. As a female generational agriculturalist myself, this topic is near and dear to my heart.
Hiner Family History
The original Hiner family traveled from Germany to Highland County originally settling on the Delbert Rexrode property in Doe Hill. From there they moved to the current Vandevander property beside Hiner Church on Doe Hill road, then landed where they are now in McDowell.
Tabitha’s great-great-grandfather Maloy purchased the homestead; however, this was their family’s ancestral land prior to the purchase. He later gifted the property to his daughter, Stella, Tabitha’s great-grandmother, who married Paul Hiner in the 1930s. “We are not really sure exactly why they chose Highland County to settle in, but I’m sure glad they did!” says Tabitha.
Originally, the Hiners raised sheep and used horses to harvest their crops. Since that time, the Hiner family has built up a successful commercial Angus cow and calf operation as well as growing corn and hay. In the past, they also raised hogs, and Tabitha’s brother, Travis, made maple syrup off and on for a few years. Like most Highland County families, they also have a large produce garden each year to feed and sustain the family.
The Hiner family has a reputation to be very gracious as well. When I asked about one of her favorite stories of her ancestors, Tabitha shared this: “One of my favorite facts about the Hiners is that they donated a piece of their land to build a church, now called the Hiner Church, on Doe Hill Road.” This trait is seen in Tabitha as well as she is always ready to help others whenever possible.
The older Tabitha and her brother get, the more involved they are on the farm, assuming more responsibility to one day take it over for themselves. While they face challenges everyday, they are lucky enough to still have their father and grandfather around to learn from. “My brother and father do most of the farming currently since my husband and I have full-time jobs. My grandfather still gets out and does what he can to help though!”
While growing up on a working farm isn’t always easy, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow along with your production. “My favorite things [on the farm] are animals and all their babies, seeing life start and grow and happen all over again,” Tabitha explains. “There was always room for plenty of critters. I had lots of barn cats, bunnies, and chickens and a few goats aside from the regular family operations. My chores didn’t seem like chores. They were a passion of mine, and I was more than happy to do them. When friends came over, there were always plenty of things to do outside on the farm. We would rearrange the square bales into forts and play in the barn all day long.”
But living on a farm isn’t always sunshine and roses. “My least favorite thing about the farm is when you worked so hard to save a calf or a cow and you end up losing them in the end,” Tabitha says. “Another least favorite part would be leaving the farm. I would have rather been on the farm than in school, and that still holds true to this day,” she laughs.
Her Advice to Future Generations
“Never give up,” Tabitha commands. “Step back and ENJOY what you have and what you are doing. And whatever you do… never sell the land the generations before worked so hard to cultivate for you.”
Tabitha also advises agricultural new-comers to start small, look for ways to grow, and never give up on your dreams. Her words about navigating the sometimes treacherous road of farming is true: “There are a lot of ups and downs but the reward is worth it!”
About the Author
Carly Thomas, a 2022 graduate of Highland High School, resides in the southern portion of Highland County. Growing up as the seventh generation to live on her family’s cattle ranch, Carly learned the importance of family, faith, and devotion to the land. She is passionate about FFA, agriculture, and supporting Highland County farmers. Carly enjoys being challenged and works in a variety of jobs from writing sports articles for her local newspaper to cooking at a local sandwich shop. She can often be found working on the ranch, riding horses with her father, or working on the next FFA activity.